The Growing GitHub/Recruitment Dilema

If you are a software developer of any flavor, and do not know what GitHub is, I think it is safe to say that you are living quite comfortably under a very, VERY large rock!
:D. Whether you are a seasoned #GitHacker or new user, there is a trend that has been on the rise that can assist your career growth as much as it can destroy it:

Assessing a candidate on the basis of their GitHub profile.

Some in the industry think GitHub is your resume. I do not believe this to be the case, at least not until GitHub provides a way to customize these profile pages so that you can make the information displayed actually be meaningful.

Tech companies of any size, strive to attract and keep the best and most relevant talent. You generally can’t hire a Pediatrician to build a space faring rocket. Smart, dedicated and qualified individual – just the wrong kind of scientist. The notion of “relevance” here is important, because somewhere along the lines the industry (or at least within the recruiting realm) started believing that the best and most relevant developers were the ones dedicating hours to open source projects.
I must agree that the dedicated souls that keep the world turning by their selfless contributions are unsung heroes, and are quite often the smart individuals that you imagine. However, a GitHub profile does not particularly offer up any real insight into how this individual thinks. A GitHub profile only displays what public projects & people an individual stars, forks and follows. It also shows any recent commits/contributions. This is hardly a great way to isolate how a potential candidate will fit into your organization, or how the #MidnightHacks are relevant to your particular company.

While arguing back and forth the pros and cons of this trend, a good friend of mine recently shared an experience here in Toronto. He updated his monster profile with a few new gigs that he had done and the usual shark-bait-rush ensued. Of the six recruiters that initiated contact, four insisted that the company they represent required a GitHub profile link. Three out of those four further requested to see some repositories where they could view code that he submitted. My friend told them all that he was no longer interested in the positions, and wished them luck on their continued search. Why did he scoot them along?

  • We are both big on workplace diversity (Especially when it is Pot Luck season 😀 ). As the data shows, recruiting in this fashion (open source biased) creates a non-diverse environment.
  • My friend is not very active in the open source community. This means, not many public projects visible on the profile.
  • However, 5 organizations that he has consulted for, added him as a contributor to their private repositories. For a total of 9 individual projects and over 40k lines of code. This is not something that is visible on the profile page (maybe GitHub should find a way to give those statistics, without exposing private data?)
  • It would be a significant breach of trust and NDA agreements he signed, to give access to those commits. Think about it – A person you do not know will be traversing code that contains intellectual property, because you gave em’ access. Yup, legal mess awaiting.

Use it wisely

If you believe that selling yourself to a potential employer in this manner will benefit you, the best way to go about it is to join the Open Source community. Better yet, join a project that is very popular, and make submissions often (micro-sarcasm 😉 ). Also, try to remember that GH is a SCM & Collaboration Platform and was never designed to be a resume. Do what you love, and love what you do and over time your contributions will speak for themselves. If the work that you do is more private organization based, remember that strong ethics and respect for intellectual property goes a long way in the software world. Do not feel pressured to give up code for inspection that is not yours.

Till next time

– Martello Jones

Published by Martello Jones

I enjoy working on interesting projects that make life better.

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